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John Edward's Lawyers Come Out Gambling at Trial

By Edward Tan, JD on April 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Those following the John Edwards saga already know the former democratic vice presidential nominee has a tough legal fight ahead. But John Edwards lawyer's opening statement might just be the strategy needed to keep the former senator from a conviction.

Alison Van Laningham, Edwards' attorney, took to the offensive immediately. But not in a way most would expect. Rather than expound on Edwards' innocence, she instead shifted the blame to Andrew Young (Edwards' former aide) and his wife Cheri.

It's a gamble for sure, but why is it also brilliant?

Because now the case won't be as much about Edwards' alleged campaign misappropriations, but rather Young and his wife's self-dealing.

This strategy goes well with the image Van Laningham has tried to build of Edwards. That being a flawed, but honest man who cheated on his wife with Rielle Hunter, Edwards' campaign videographer.

In her opening, Van Laningham stated the evidence was going to show how the money Edwards' allegedly used to hide his affair was actually embezzled by Young. In her choice words, the money "ended up in the pockets of ... Young and in the wood and [stone and walls and roof] of their $1.5 million home."

Shifting blame is a common tactic in defense work, but Van Laningham does it particularly well here.

The only obstacle now is whether Edwards' defense team has the evidence to back up these claims.

Lawyers can sometimes overextend themselves in their opening statements. A brilliant opening can become a liability real fast if the supporting evidence doesn't live up to the lofty claims. Any decent opposing counsel will be quick to point out such holes to a jury.

John Edwards' case is no different. His lawyer's opening statement was bold and smart. But hopefully for the embattled ex-senator, Van Laningham will also have enough evidence to back it up.

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